CRYSTAL CITY HORNETS
Last year: 7-17 overall, 1-8 in JCC
Coach: Dan Johnson
Returning players: Dominicque Hall, sr., 6-0; Devin Riney, sr., 5-8; Michael Schenbre, sr., 5-10; Gerrico Shanklin, jr., 6-1; Jake Buehler, jr., 6-0; Demetrius Terry, jr., 6-0; Lance Cannon, soph., 6-4.
Newcomers: Thomas Carman, sr., 5-10; Mitch Pilliard, jr., 5-11.
Notable changes: Johnson, who was an assistant at Oakville High, gets his first varsity head coaching position. The Hornets lose their top two scorers from last season, Scott Johnson and Brent Vaughn. Johnson also led the team in assists, steals and rebounds.
Outlook: There are reasons to be optimistic as the Hornets have some very good athletes. Hall, Riney, Schenbre, Buehler and Taylor were all key players on a successful Crystal City football team.
There is a good mix of returning varsity players, and the Crystal City junior varsity team was 18-4 last year.
"We are not very big but we play fast and that is the style I like," Johnson said. "It is a definite learning curve now as we are putting in a lot of new stuff. We have some guys who are used to winning in football and we would like that to carry over to basketball. As a first year coach the thing I want to see most is improvement every game. I hope we are playing our best at the end of the season."
DE SOTO DRAGONS
Last year: 18-11 overall, 9-0 in JCC
Coach: Allen Davis
Returning players: Jake Huskey, sr., 6-6; Tyson Davis, sr., 5-11; Justin Madden, sr., 5-10; Jeremiah Garrett, sr., 6-3; Andrew Krodinger, sr., 6-2; Grant Gannon, sr., 6-3; Kyle Tolbert, sr., 6-3.
Newcomers: Ryan Lawrence, sr., 6-3; Tyler Reando, jr., 5-11; Taylor Carron, jr., 6-0; Brandon O'Day, soph., 6-3; Cory DeClue, jr., 6-2; matt Guemmer, jr., 5-6; Brett Guemmer, jr., 5-6.
Notable changes: Lawrence is a transfer from Festus, where he averaged almost 14 points a game. The program suffered a key loss when 6-6 Nic Harbison drown in an accident early last spring at Summer Set Lake.
Outlook: The Dragons were undefeated in the league last year and should be the heavy favorite to repeat as they return their top four scorers, including conference most valuable player Huskey, who is a dominant inside presence.
Madden was the team's top scorer last year (12.4 a game) and can light it up as he showed when he scored 39 in a game last year.
Davis is an all-district performer and a floor leader at the point.
"De Soto has a winning tradition and this should be another very good team," Davis said. "The guys are biting at the bit right now. The expectations are high. They just need to come together as a group and play unselfishly."
Last year: 19-9 overall, 6-3 in JCC
Coach: Shawn Erickson
Returning players: Myles Becquette, sr., 6-3; Matt Sides, sr., 6-3; Nik Boyer, sr., 6-3; Jake DeRousse, sr., 6-0.
Newcomers: J.T. Lovelace, jr., 5-9; Kory Riggs, soph., 6-4; Thomas Stubbs, soph., 6-6; Patrick Kopp, jr., 6-3.
Notable changes: There is all kinds of changes at Festus this year starting with the head coach. Erickson comes to Festus after seven successful seasons at Belle High School. His teams won 20 games three times, won the Gasconade Valley Conference three times and won district titles twice (they had won just one other in 1962).
Most of his players will be new as leading scorer Eric Lawrence, Cody Stites and Brandon Winters graduated. Ryan Lawrence, who averaged 13.7 points a game, transferred to De Soto and Jeff Foster, who averaged over seven points a game and led the team in rebounding, transferred to Hillsboro.
Outlook: This is a Tiger team with very little varsity experience and they will be learning a new system from first-year coach Erickson.
Becquette is a proven player who averaged 10 points a game and led the Tigers in assists last year.
"We will be looking to Myles, who was an all-district and all-conference player, to be a scorer for us," Erickson said. "He will probably be our first option but we also need him to improve defensively. He is athletic enough to be a good defensive player."
Festus has some good size and will be able to play a half-court game although they will try to times to get it up and down and get a quick early basket. Erickson is a man-to-man proponent but is flexible to change depending on the opponent.
"We are growing as a team every day alhtough I don't think it would be realistic to expect as many wins as last year," Erickson said. "But I am not considering this to be a rebuilding year. When I was at Belle it was definitely rebuilding. This is a team capable to winning some games but they need to get in a few battles first. It is basically a new team and a lot of them are not battle-tested."
Last year: 7-19 overall, 1-7 in Suburban West
Coach: Lance Anders
Returning players: Matt Simokaitis, sr., 6-2.
Newcomers: Mike Burrow, jr., 6-4; Cory Dunning, jr., 6-3; Adis Fajic, jr., 6-3; Alen Hadzimahovic, soph., 6-6; Patrick Kennedy, jr., 6-0; Tim Kuhlman, jr., 6-1; Jon Maddy, jr., 6-4; Kyle Meyer, jr., 5-9; Billy Pribble, jr., 6-4; Tim Roper, jr., 5-8.
Notable changes: Only one player returns from last year's varsity team so everything changes with the Warriors. Most of the players come up with the junior varsity team although guard Kennedy is a transfer from Alabama.
Outlook: This is easily the youngest team in Ander's nine years at Fox with no returning starters, just one returning varsity player and just one senior on the team.
"We have always had four or five seniors on the team," Anders said. "This could be good for us in the long run but it will be a situation where we will be learning as we go. The practices have been smooth. I am throwing a lot of things at them and they are picking things up well. It is still going to take time to gell."
The 6-6 Hadzimahovic is a player to keep an eye on.
"Alen is a pretty complete player and he is only a sophomore," Anders said. "He runs the floor, he can shoot it, and he is 6-6. He has a lot of tools."
Anders knows that he had to be patient with this team.
"We are not going to put any numbers as a goal for wins this season," he said. "Hopefully we grow as a team. Early on we will take our lumps but I hope there are good things down the road."
Last year: 13-11 overall, 5-4 in JCC
Coach: Craig Porterfield
Returning players: Mike Mayberry, sr., 6-3; Dillon Barnes, jr., 6-0; Jake DeRousse, sr., 6-0; Jacob Hayes, sr., 5-9; J.P. Mahn, sr., 5-9; Jesse Richter, sr., 6-0.
Newcomers: John Bruemmer, soph., 6-6; Kyle Christopher, sr., 5-8; Donny Clark, jr., 6-1; Brian Combs, sr., 5-11; Jake Gibbs, sr., 5-10; Josh White, sr., 5-8.
Notable changes: Porterfield takes over for Jim Keeling as head coach. He was Keeling's assistant last year. Craig Leggens will be a tough player to replace. He averaged 18.9 points a game and led the team in steals. No other Eagle player averaged in double figures.
Outlook: Mayberry is a key returning player. He is capable of averaging a double-double as he averaged eight points and a team-leading nine rebounds last year and will have a bigger role this season.
Last year: 3-21 overall, 1-8 in JCC
Coach: Sean Breeze
Returning players: Jake Alexander, sr., 6-5; Thomas Plager, soph., 6-2; Dustin Dunn, jr., 6-0; Brandon Sides, sr., 6-4; Brad Smelser, sr., 6-2.
Newcomers: Jason Washburn, soph., 5-10; Justin ramsey, soph. 6-0; Mike Martinez, soph., 6-0; Kyle Bates, jr. 5-10; Brian Bolden, sr., 5-9.
Notable changes: The starting lineup will be new with the exception of Alexander. Breeze begins his second year as head coach.
Outlook: The Blackcats struggled last season although they lost a dozen or so games by 10 points or less and got better as the year went on for first-year coach Breeze. They may have played their best game of the season in the finale in districts. They took second-seeded St. Pius to a double overtime before losing by one point.
Alexander is a go-to player for the Blackcats. He was the only Herculaneum player to score in double figures last year (17.7) and also led the team in rebounds (over nine a game), assists and steals.
"Jake is our big-time player," Breeze said. "He is a 6-5 athlete who can do a little bit of everything. We are a younger and smaller team than we were last year so we may need to use him inside more this year. We will try to use all of his tools."
The rest of the starting spots appear open to competition.
"Right now we are just looking to find our identity," Breeze said. "Last year we were bigger and more of a set it up team. We are smaller and will look to pick up the pace a little more this year. One thing we want to do this year is be able to finish off games better. We were in a position to win some more games last year but just couldn't close the deal."
Last year: 7-18 overall, 3-6 in JCC
Coach: Chris O'Connell
Returning players: Brian Bennett, sr., 6-1; Mario Brontoli, sr., 6-5; Adam Eithier, sr., 6-0; Brandon Glore, sr, 5-10; Seth Swafford, sr, 6-0; Ed Winchester, sr., 6-2.
Newcomers: Jeff Foster, sr., 6-2; Lance Kiggens, soph., 5-9; Kevin Kramer, soph., 6-4; Eric Miller, jr.,, 5-10; Casey Pochon, jr., 6-5.
Notable changes: The big change is in the coaching department as O'Connell replaces Nick Traxler, who is now the head coach at Oakville. O'Connell was an asssitant for five years at St. Mary's High School and was an assistant last year at Lindenwood University. This is his first year as a varsity head coach.
Outlook: Hillsboro can match up in the backcourt with any team as it returns its top two scorers Brandon Glore (14.1 per game) and Adam Eithier (11.1 per game) along with Swafford. Glore, who is a three-year varsity starter, made 59 3-pointers last year but did not even lead his team as Eithier made 65.
O'Connell is looking for more balanced scoring this year and, more than anything, better shot selection.
"We were second to last in the league in scoring and also second to last in points allowed," O'Connell said. "The biggest thing I noticed from the films was the shot selection. We have to improve on that.
"I think the guys were humbled by the seven wins last year. We will definitely be better than that but our main goal is to get better on a daily basis, whether it be in games or practices."
Last year: 12-15 overall, 2-6 in Suburban West
Coach: Matt Guethle
Returning players: Greg Carley, sr., 6-2; Kyle Fowler, sr., 6-4; Drew Moore, sr., 6-4; Kyle Myers, sr., 5-10; Nathan Shelton, sr., 5-10.
Newcomers: Colten Hill, jr., 5-8; Cameron Nichols, jr., 5-9; Trevor Riley, jr., 6-8; Eric Shoemaker, jr., 6-3; Ryan Wilkinson, soph., 6-2.
Notable changes: Guethle, a 1994 Northwest graduate, takes over as coach from Bill Gunn, who is now the head coach at Kirkwood High School. Guethle was Gunn's assistant the last two years.
The Lions also have a new postseason assignment. They no longer have to play against power Lafayette. This year they are in the same district as Lindbergh, Mehlville, Oakville and Rockwood Summit.
Outlook: Northwest has not had a winning record in 10 years, but Guethle likes this team's chances of breaking that long streak.
The Lions came close to that mark last year and return three starters, including point guard Drew Moore. Moore led the team in scoring (15.3 points per game) as well as assists, steals and blocks last year.
"Drew is a tough match-up as a point guard at 6-4, 210 pounds. He has worked on his strength in the off-season and is just a lot better all-around player this year. I expect major things from him."
Fowler, who moved in last year from Florida, and Carley are the other returning starters. Myers is another returning player although he is currently out with a broken hand.
"We want to become one of the best teams in the Suburban West Conference," Guethle said. "The guys want to be in the upper echolon of that great conference. The guys are excited about playing. We want to play well in the tournaments we play in (Seckman, Union and Northwest) and compete for the district title in our new district."
Last year: 13-13 overall, 2-5 in Suburban South
Coach: Steve Cookson
Returning players: Brad Cookson, sr., 6-1; Kody Katzenberger, sr., 6-0; Mike Moceri, sr., 6-2; Sean Morrissey, sr., 6-4; Robert Presnell, sr., 6-4; Mikey Riva, sr., 6-6.
Newcomers: Clay Ehlmann, jr., 6-0; Brandon Gross, sr., 6-0; Josh Hackerson, jr., 6-0; Brandon Penberthy, jr., 6-1; Nick Reinhardt, jr., 6-2; Nick Tibbles, jr., 6-1; Colby White, soph., 6-0.
Notable changes: There will be a number of new starters as Cookson is the only one returning from last year.
Outlook: The .500 mark last year was pretty much what Cookson expected. He hopes to improve in the league this year.
Brad Cookson led the team in 3-point field goals last year (42) and averaged over seven points a game.
Expect the scoring to be shared as it was last year as no Seckman player finished the season averaging in double figures.
"We have three or four kids who can potentially put the ball in the basket," Cookson said. "There were several juniors from last year's team who got some valuable minutes and we hope that they step up and pick up the slack for some of the departed players.
"I have high expectations this year. We have some decent size to go along with some quickness and speed. We expect to play an up-tempo style of play and hopefully we will be able to get after people defensively."
ST. PIUS X LANCERS
Last year: 19-8 overall, 8-1 in JCC
Coach: Jeff Broadwater and Aaron Portell
Returning players: Josh Boyer, jr., 5-7; Sam Modde, sr., 5-9; Ryan Vallo, sr., 6-0; Tyler Burke, sr., 6-3; Alex Otec, jr., 6-2; Anthony Zinser, sr., 6-4.
Newcomers: Marek Serafin, jr., 6-3; Phil Klahs, jr., 6-2; Nick Holdinghausen, sr., 6-0.
Notable changes: Everything changes at St. Pius with the exception of the co-coaches. There are no returning starters.
Outlook: Last year was a special year for the Lancers with the 19 wins, the second place finish in conference and their first district title in 25 years.
But they graduated four seniors who are playing sports in college. Cory Prindiville averaged a double-double and is now at Avila College. Drew Horn led the team in assists and steals and is at Webster University. Two other starters are playing other sports in college. Carlos Bisch is playing football at Central Missouri State University and Scott Wensler is playing soccer and place-kicking at Avila.
The Lancers will be helped greatly with a couple of transfers who should either start or be one of the first off the bench. Serafin, a forward, moves in from New York, while Klahs, also a forward, comes from Michigan.
Burke, who is the team's most experienced player, will likely start with Modde, Otek, Zenser and one of the transfers.
"We are starting from scratch again," Broadwater said. "This is a work in progress but the guys are working real hard. Last year's team was a more athletic team. But I think this team shoots better from the perimeter. Another thing this team does not have is the dominant inside player like the 6-5 Prindiville. I think we are still capable of winning the small-school conference and winning districts again."
Last season: 14-13 overall, 6-3 in JCC
Coach: Wayne Montgomery
Returning players: Calvin Kohler, sr., 5-8; Jake Neff, sr., 5-10; Tayler Perrey, sr., 6-1; Billy Willis, sr., 6-4.
Newcomers: Stephone Allen, soph., 5-9; Mike Alvarado, soph., 5-8; Jerome Brown, jr., 5-10; Kyle Burrow, jr., 5-11; Andrew Buss, jr., 6-4; Mitchell Fox, sr., 6-0; Jacob Geiser, sr., 5-10; Roger Jerden, jr., 5-9; Joe Maddock, sr., 6-2; Robert Price, jr., 6-2.
Notable changes: There will be an entirely different starting lineup for the Owls who graduated all five starters including Tim Downey, who averaged 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds a game last year.
Outlook: It is going to be tough for the Owls to duplicate last year, a season that very well could have included several more wins. But Downey missed five games with an injury during the season and the Owls lost all five of those games.
Windsor had a tough start in the opener, losing to DuBourg 65-27 in a game in which it was outscored 30-6 in the second half.
"DuBourg is a tough place to play, and we had some match-up problems with them," Montgomery said. "They have a kid who is 6-foot-7 who hurt us. They pressed us and we committed a lot of turnovers. Hopefully we got over the first game jitters and can move on."
Montgomery feels that the Owls should be a good outside shooting team. Brown had three 3-pointers against DuBourg en route to a team-high 12 points.
"These kids have a lot of heart and they are not afraid to work hard," Montgomery said. "People don't know a lot about these kids but I have seen them in practice and they are competitors. A winning season is a goal every year, and I think it is fully within our grasp with this team."